Annabella Lwin (born Myant Myant Aye, 31 October 1966) is an Anglo-Burmese singer, songwriter, and record producer best known as the lead singer of Bow Wow Wow. Lwin was born to a Burmese father and an English mother in Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar). She is a practicing (Soka Gakkai International) Buddhist.
After recording Dirk Wears White Sox as members of Adam and the Ants, Matthew Ashman, Leigh Gorman and Dave Barbarossa were convinced by former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren to leave Adam Ant to form a new band under his management. Liverpool session musician, music director and talent scout Dave Fishel heard thirteen-year-old Lwin singing along to the radio at the laundromat she worked at and convinced McLaren to audition her for lead singer of his new band. Following her successful audition, he had her transfer from a mixed comprehensive school in London to the Sylvia Young Theatre School.
Bow Wow Wow signed with EMI Records in July 1980, and released their first single, “C·30 C·60 C·90 Go!”, shortly afterward. Originally only released on cassette, it was the world’s first-ever cassette single. EMI did not promote the cassingle due to lyrics (“Off the radio, I get constant flow/Hit it, pause it, record and play/Turn it, rewind and rub it away”) that promoted home taping during an era when music piracy was a hot button issue. The B-side, “Sun, Sea, and Piracy”, also promoted home taping, then lying on a beach and enjoying the fruits of this labor. Both tracks were on side 1 of the tape, making the second side blank. Presumably, so the listener could follow Annabella’s lead.
When Bow Wow Wow moved to RCA Records, controversy followed them over to their new label. The album cover of their debut album, See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang Yeah, City All Over! Go Ape Crazy! depicted the band recreating Édouard Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, with a then fourteen-year-old Lwin posing nude. Photographed by Andy Earl, the cover caused outrage that led to an investigation by Scotland Yard, instigated by Lwin’s mother. Undeterred, the band used the same photo on the cover of their follow-up EP The Last of the Mohicans, and the sleeve of the “Go Wild in the Country” single.
Another nude photo of Lwin was used for the cover of I Want Candy less than a year later. The title track, a cover of the Strangeloves’ 1965 hit originally on The Last of the Mohicans, barely scraped the Top 50 but was instrumental in introducing Lwin and Bow Wow Wow to American audiences. Thanks, in part, to the memorable video that got heavy play in the early days of MTV.
At the behest of Ashman, Lwin began writing for Bow Wow Wow’s follow-up, When The Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going. When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going contained the hit “Do You Wanna Hold Me?”, which also found its way into heavy rotation on MTV.
During a hiatus following an intense US tour, Lwin was unceremoniously ousted from the band in September 1983. She found out about her firing by reading it in NME.
Simply calling herself “Annabella”, her first solo release was the 1985 single “Don’t Dance With Strangers”, produced by the System. She followed that up with the album Fever in 1986. The title track, a cover of the Peggy Lee classic, was produced by and recorded with multi-instrumentalist Jim Lea of Slade. Another single from the album, “War Boys”, produced by John Robie, spent six weeks on the US Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart, peaking at #28. “Don’t Dance With Strangers” and “Fever” was included on The Best of Bow Wow Wow, released on 29 October 1996 by BMI.
She formed a new band, Naked Experience, and collaborated across the Atlantic with seasoned musicians and songwriters such as Billy Steinberg and Ellen Shipley. In 1994, Sony Soho Square released two singles, “Car Sex” and “Do What You Do”, for which, she was billed as “Annabella Lwin”. “Car Sex” made the Top 10 in the UK Dance Chart, while the re-mixed dance follow-up “Do What You Do” (1995), produced by Steve Lironi, spent one week at No.61 in the UK Singles Chart. In 1999, Cleopatra released Virgin Voices: A Tribute To Madonna, Volume One. It contained a cover of “Like a Virgin” credited to “Annabella Lwin of Bow Wow Wow.”
Bow Wow Wow reunion
Annabella and former Bow Wow Wow bass player Leigh Gorman reunited in 1997 for a US tour. The reunion included appearances by a range of musicians from the young up and coming, such as Eshan Khadaroo of Beat Kitchen, (Blue Man), and the established, including Adrian Young of No Doubt, both playing drums in place of original member Dave Barbarossa. The original guitarist of Bow Wow Wow, Matthew Ashman, had died of complications from diabetes in 1995, and various guitarists filled in.
The tour began in December 1997 and ended in March 1998. Two shows, the January 10, 1998 show at the Bluebird Theater in Denver, Colorado, and the March 7, 1998 show at the Drama Club in Santa Fe, New Mexico, were used for a live CD, Wild in the U.S.A. on Cleopatra Records.
In 1998, Bow Wow Wow collaborated with DJ Swedish Egil on the track “Eastern Promise”, released as part of Egil’s Groove Radio Presents Alternative Mix CD on Priority Records. They contributed the song “A Thousand Tears” to the 1999 film Desperate But Not Serious (retitled Reckless + Wild in the US), starring Christine Taylor and Claudia Schiffer and appeared in the film.
In 2006, Bow Wow Wow recorded a cover of the Smiths’ “I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish”, which appeared on three 2007 releases: a new three-track I Want Candy EP (Cleopatra), compilation album Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before: A Tribute to the Smiths (Cleopatra) and the Blood & Chocolate: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Lakeshore Records).
On 21 November 2010, the 15th anniversary of Ashman’s death, Barbarossa joined Lwin and Gorman at the Scala in London in a tribute concert for Ashman. The show was headlined by Adam Ant, and also featured Ashman’s other bands, Chiefs of Relief and Agent Provocateur.
With a new guitarist (Jimmy Magoon) and drummer (Dylan Thomas), Bow Wow Wow played shows in California and toured the UK during 2011-2012. In December 2012, Gorman began performing under the name “Bow Wow Wow” with Chloe Demetria of the band Vigilant on vocals and launched a new Bow Wow Wow Facebook page. All of which was done without Lwin’s consent. Lwin has continued to perform billed as “Annabella Lwin of the original Bow Wow Wow”.
Lwin has recorded original material as a solo artist and is a featured vocalist on numerous transatlantic dance tracks with producers/DJs, such as Tony B of Groove Radio, Jason Nevins, and the Utah Saints. Lwin’s songwriting also brought her into partnerships with producers such as Guy Chambers and Michael Lattanzi.
In 2005, Lwin was a featured vocalist, with Camp Freddy members Dave Navarro and Billy Morrison, during a fundraising concert for victims of the tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. Lwin co-wrote and co-produced a solo song with record producer Carey Beare, which was donated exclusively to the Hands and Hearts Organization for Tsunami Relief in spring 2006.
Amongst a couple of her own shows in 2010, Lwin appeared on stage with Kathy Valentine and Charlotte Caffey (Go-Go’s), Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), and other prominent artists for a MusiCaresMusicians Assistance Program (MAP) Benefit concert called ‘Women in Recovery’, as well as participating in animal charity related concerts.
On 10 July 2012, Annabella released Super Boom on Secret Records. It was a fourteen-track collection of unreleased demo and studio recordings from 1984 through to 1987. In 2016, she released a new EP, entitled Willow Tree, on which she wrote all four tracks. Later in the year, she contributed a cover of “Cheer Up” to One Heart: A Tribute to Bob Marley & the Wailers, a benefit for teens and young adults with cancer or who are living in difficult circumstances.
Bow Wow Wow songs “Aphrodisiac”, “I Want Candy” and “Fools Rush In” (the latter two remixed by Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine) were included on the soundtrack of 2006 Sofia Coppola film Marie Antoinette. Annabella was also the inspiration for how Coppola had lead actress Kirsten Dunst to portray the title character. The band performed on 2 November 2006 at the Maritime Hotel’s Hiro Lounge in New York City to promote the film.
With Bow Wow Wow
- Your Cassette Pet (1980)
- See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang Yeah, City All Over! Go Ape Crazy! (1981)
- The Last of the Mohicans (1982)
- Teenage Queen (1982)
- I Want Candy (1982)
- Original Recordings (1982)
- When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going (1983)
- The Best of Bow Wow Wow (Receiver Records Limited) (1989)
- Girl Bites Dog: Your Compact Disc Pet (1993)
- Go Wild, The Best of (1993)
- Aphrodisiac… Best of (1996)
- The Best of Bow Wow Wow (RCA Records) (1996)
- Live in Japan (1997)
- Wild in the U.S.A. (1998)
- I Want Candy – Anthology (2003)
- We Are the ’80s (2006)
- I Want Candy (EP) (2007)
- Love, Peace & Harmony – The Best of Bow Wow Wow (2008)
- Mile High Club Live (2009)
- John Peel Session (20th October 1980) (2011)
- Your Box Set Pet (The Complete Recordings 1980–1984) (2018)
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